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May 16, 2016 Executive Profile

Survivor Howie serves as banker's banker

HBJ PHOTO | John Stearns Craig Howie is trying to add insurance and technology-related ventures to Bankers' Bank's menu of services to local lenders.

Lying near the road, Craig Howie remembers waking to a man telling him, “Don't worry, I was a medic in the Army.”

“I'm like, 'Oh, God,' then I started to get worried,” Howie said, recounting the day in 1984 he was struck by a car while jogging and launched about 30 feet onto the medic's lawn. The man told Howie not to look at his leg.

“So of course, what's the first thing you're going to do?” Howie said. “You're going to look at your leg — and I see two bones sticking out.” He passed out again.

Howie, president and CEO of Bankers' Bank Northeast (BBN) in Glastonbury since 2013, was about to graduate from college. At 6-5, he played Division III basketball for Susquehanna University in central Pennsylvania and was running to keep in post-season shape.

With the vehicle coming from behind, Howie could sense the driver losing control on the wet pavement and pushed away from the car as he was hit, snapping off its side mirror. The driver, who stopped to check on him before leaving and before Howie faded out, was someone he recognized from college and whom Howie identified for police.

Howie spent six months in a cast and gained a new perspective, mellowing a bit and realizing how close he came to a tragic ending.

After the accident, Howie, who had planned to go to Virginia Tech for graduate school, opted to get his MBA closer to his Philadelphia home, at Drexel University.

He started his career as a mortgage banker at then-GMAC Mortgage, went to the former Chemical Bank and most recently spent 22 years in several roles at Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, which provides funding for affordable housing and community development to member financial institutions, including about 300 community banks.

“That was really kind of, for me, the more appealing customer base … because you felt like you were impacting their business,” Howie said, calling community banks an American ideal and economic engine.

BBN is a correspondent bank, or bank for bankers, providing services a retail bank needs to serve its public. Its services for roughly 175 member banks and some credit unions in New England and New York include check processing, coin and currency services, processing wire transfers and more.

“We aggregate and intermediate,” Howie said.

BBN intermediates between the community bank and other banks. It also aggregates the transactions of its community banks to get more favorable pricing than individual banks could get alone, he said.

Bankers' Bank, founded in 1998 to provide correspondent services, is forming a holding company to branch into additional businesses, including insurance and technology-related ventures, to diversify its revenues and provide more services for members.

“It's kind of a new venture for us and that's … where we see the growth of our business,” but also have a greater impact on clients, “which, to me, being like a cooperative, is more important,” Howie said.

Technologies it's developing would allow BBN customers to buy and sell loans; another would aim to save clients money in document storage. The new ventures could expand the 30-member staff about 25 percent within a couple years.

Howie's not afraid to try new things, said Rheo Brouillard, president and CEO of Willimantic-based Savings Institute Bank and Trust Co. and chairman of BBN's board.

“He's got some good ideas; his experience, I think, gives him a leg up on trying to do what Bankers' Bank does,” Brouillard said.

Brouillard cites Howie's professional, calm demeanor.

“He's just the kind of guy I think people are comfortable around, he doesn't try to impress anybody,” Brouillard said.

Howie came to Connecticut for the opportunity to lead a bank and stay in community banking. He values honesty.

“I can live with yes, I can live with no, but I can't live with maybe, so be honest with people,” he said.

Howie, 54, and his wife, Dottie, have a son, 22, who stands 6-10 and is a junior at Virginia Tech, and two daughters, 25 and 27, schoolteachers in Charlotte, N.C.

The couple enjoy exploring Connecticut, including by bike via rails-to-trails.

An interesting discovery? “The farms in Connecticut” and their varied crops, he said. “You'd never think of it.”n



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